Gemma's Reviews > Edith Wharton

Edith Wharton by Hermione Lee
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's review
Sep 07, 2007

really liked it
Read in October, 2008

I was late to work this morning because I was finishing this book.

I cried when Edith died. I know, it’s her biography, she dies at the end! But still. It was really movingly done. But not overly sentimental!

That’s the main thing I like about Hermione Lee is that she treats her subjects with love and respect, but also fairly. Read: multi-dimensionally. Edith Wharton hated Jews and supported the fascist party. When she died in 1937, she admitted she was afraid of Hitler and what he would do, but she was equally afraid of the “Bolsheviks” and the Communist government in Russia.

Edith used to write in bed, dropping the sheets of paper over the side of the bed for her secretary, Jeanne, to pick up and transcribe later. I think I would write A LOT more if I knew I could just toss papers hither and thither and have someone else sort them out. Do I have any volunteers?

Despite her clear anti-semitism, and her upper class sense of entitlement, and her occasional snobbery, and her belief that women shouldn’t get the right to vote, I found myself rather fond of old Edoo. What a pioneer. What a smart, headstrong lady.

And Hermione Lee! I will read anything she writes. After her fascinating record of the life of Virginia Woolf, and now this sensitive and critical portrait of Edith Wharton, I’m converting to Lee’s church of biography.

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